No justice for Cardiff Three: a summary of the Horwell Report

A long awaited report by Richard Horwell QC into the collapse of R v Mouncher criminal trial reveals the failings that denied justice to the Cardiff Three.

Thirteen police officers from South Wales Police were charged with offences of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and perjury.  The trial of eight of the officers commenced in July 2011 at Swansea Crown Court but collapsed on the 1st December 2011 when the prosecution offered no evidence. The police officers were acquitted and walked free from the Court.

The case against the officers was that they had “moulded, manipulated, influenced and fabricated” the evidence against five innocent men.  Three of the men were convicted of the murder of Lynette White in 1990 but had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal in 1992.   Matthew Gold has represented one of the three convicted men, Stephen Miller, for 15 years, attempting to obtain justice for his wrongful conviction.

The trial of the eight police officers was beset with problems from the outset.  Most of these centred on the prosecution’s failure to fulfil its disclosure obligation to the officer defendants.  It culminated in the Court being told that files had been destroyed; documents which had not been disclosed to the defendants. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and the prosecution was unable to continue.  To everyone’s astonishment the “destroyed” files were found at police headquarters 7 weeks later in the office of the Senior Investigating Officer.

Mr Horwell QC found that the conduct of the police officers, the CPS and Counsel all played a part in the prosecution catastrophe.  This included the appointment of not sufficiently experienced disclosure police officers and counsel and infighting and disagreements within the CPS.  There was a failure to properly train members of the prosecution team, and to have procedures in place which were fit for purpose.  Mr Horwell QC described what happened as an “embarrassment on a national scale” and “disclosure catastrophes”.

When the officers were charged, it gave Stephen Miller hope that after almost 25 years they would be held to account for their actions.   He thought the tables had turned and they would stand in dock in the same Court where he was found guilty of murder.  He did not want revenge, only justice and fairness – if only to enable him to move on from one of the longest running legal sagas in English legal history.

It is completely unacceptable that the trial of the officers collapsed because of human failings, conduct not befitting a prosecutorial legal system and a failure to apply “common sense”. It should never happen again.

Mr Horwell QC has made a number of recommendations to improve training, policy and guidance.  We very much hope and expect the Home Secretary to accept the recommendations and implement them as soon as possible.

We welcome any inquiries concerning this matter or similar cases.